Shy Kids: Tips for Introducing Children to New Experiences
Teaching kids how to enjoy new experiences and socialize with their peers doesn’t always come naturally. Let’s face it, just like some adults, children can be introverts. While it’s common for parents to worry when a child isn’t participating in an activity, there are simple ways to help build your child’s confidence. Here are a few tips to help your child overcome social anxiety to better enjoy new activities such as sports leagues, lessons and classes.
Prepare for new experiences: It’s important to establish a comfort zone when it comes to preparing your child for new experiences. Beforehand, take the extra time to sit down with your child in front of a computer and share pictures so they know what to expect. You’d be surprised to see how much your child’s face lights up when they notice the gym they’re in is the same one they saw in the pictures from the night before.
Let your child watch from the sidelines: A new environment can be scary for anyone, especially hesitant kids. If your child is afraid to participate during the first visit, they’re not alone. It’s perfectly normal for kids to be cautious of new environments. Encourage your child to warm up to the class by watching others participate. Kids can get a boost in confidence by simply observing their peers.
As a parent, it’s also important to understand that there are different types of children. Some are leaders while others are followers. If you or a teacher/coach can find a peer leader in the class for your child to connect with, the peer may be delighted to show your child the ropes and your child may be more inclined to participate and follow in their footsteps. Before you know it, your child might be the one who others look to for comfort.
Never force participation: If your child is hesitant to start a new activity, don’t force the issue. When a parent tries to force a child to participate they often become anxious. The anxiety will continue to resonate if you send the message that what they are doing is wrong. Instead, praise them for their efforts and practice positive reinforcement such as enthusiastically jumping into the activity yourself. Your child will feed off your positive energy and will be more willing to try new experiences if they see that you are comfortable and having fun.
What has helped you guide your child through moments of shyness?
Jyl Camhi is the mother of two sons and co-founder of Great Play – a franchised kids’ gym that offers a developmental, hands-on approach to learning motor skills, sports skills, and physical education for children ages six months through fifth grade.